Running is a key component of physical fitness and perhaps the most important aspect of conditioning for wartime duty. Cardiovascular endurance greatly affects troops' abilities to perform their missions.
Even the slowest runners can make significant improvements on their runtimes - not only for the sake of mission readiness but for physical fitness test standards - by training hard and sticking to a few key guidelines.
One important part of training to improve runtime is increasing the rhythm speed and controlling the pace of runs.
"The real secret to improvement at distances from the 5K on up is faster turnover, or cadence," said Lt. Col. Martha Davis, dietician, 115th Combat Support Hospital. "Turnover simply means the number of times your feet push off during each minute of running. Most runners get locked into a cadence that feels comfortable."
To accelerate runtime, you must practice slightly increasing your leg motion during runs, Davis said.
However, if a runner pushes too much faster than his current cadence, his body won't compute.
By following a simple drill six times a week, troops can improve their turnover and be well on their way to a faster runtime.
To accelerate your turnover, warm up by jogging for half of a mile, then, at your normal training pace, count the number of times your right foot pushes off the ground in one minute, Davis said. Multiply that number by two and you have your turnover time. Repeating this two to four times and trying to increase turnover will speed up your running cadence.
Just as important as training is a person's diet, which can have an immense impact on training.
"Another factor often overlooked in training is diet (nutrition) and properly fueling your body before, during and after a run," said Maj. Lisa Garcia, plans chief, Public Affairs office, Multi-National Corps - Iraq, who has run 12 marathons and is currently training for an Ironman competition next year.
Those trying to improve their run should eat a balanced diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, Davis said. Hydration is important. For every two percent of dehydration the body undergoes, performance will take approximately a ten percent decrease.
Consistency is extremely vital, as with any training program, and servicemembers striving for a better runtime should train often.
"I consider consistency in workouts the most important factor when trying to improve your run time," Garcia said. "Set a goal and find a training plan that fits your goal, ability level and schedule, and stick to it."
"Running at least three times a week promotes positive changes that will ensure training progress," Davis said. "You'll improve running efficiency if you do at least three half-hour runs every week, regardless of the speed at which you do them."
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind, in order to revitalize the body during training, is rest.
"Without rest, even the most perfect workouts will not produce a training effect," Davis said.
The last thing troops should take into consideration during their runs is pace.
"If you run too fast on long runs or during speed sessions, you won't reap the full benefits of the training effect," Davis said. "When you run at the right pace, for enough days per week, with enough rest between runs, you'll build to a stronger level each week," Davis said.
With adequate rest, a steady pace, a solid training program and a healthy, balanced diet, troops can be well on their well to success with running, and greatly improve their cardiovascular fitness, making them only more mission ready.